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Lack of spirometry use in Danish patients initiating medication targeting obstructive lung disease.

BACKGROUND: Research indicates that a large proportion of patients using medication targeting obstructive lung disease have no history of spirometry testing.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the use of spirometry when initiating pulmonary medication targeting obstructive lung disease and to explore possible patient characteristics associated with undergoing spirometry.

METHODS: Population-based cohort study. Three Danish National registers were linked enabling a retrieval of data on all primary and secondary healthcare services provided in the time period 2007-2010.

RESULTS: In 2008 a total of 40,969 patients were registered as first time users of pulmonary medication targeting obstructive lung disease. The mean age of the study cohort was 55.6 yrs (SD 18.7). Spirometry test had been performed in 20,262 (49.5%) of the study cohort in the period from 6 months before to 12 months after their first prescription. Just above one third of the cohort, 14,275 (34.8%), had undergone spirometry in the two-month period close to redemption of their first prescription. Women and patients in the oldest age categories were less likely to have spirometry performed.

CONCLUSIONS: Many patients initiate medication targeting obstructive pulmonary disease without having airway obstruction confirmed through spirometry. Only one third of the study cohort had a spirometry performed when initiating medication and half had still not undergone spirometry after a year. There should be an increased focus on confirming airway obstruction when initiating medication.

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